How to partner up for social media success

By Cynthia Francis
Thank you Cynthia….

Struggling to launch a large-scale social media campaign without the necessary staff and resources? Here’s how to smoothly enlist a technology provider to meet your goals and make your client happy.
In today’s economy, uncertainty is the only thing that is certain. Companies are closely watching their bottom line, slashing expenditures and headcounts. But even as budgets shrink, marketers can’t afford to lose market share in a competitive marketplace with an increasing number of businesses gunning for a shrinking pool of consumer dollars. Businesses must find compelling ways to reach customers and differentiate from their competitors. So what’s a marketer to do? Spend smarter. Redirect dollars to initiatives with greater ROI potential and embrace the direction consumers are headed online: social media.

Social media is a catch-all phrase that includes all the ways consumers interact with each other in a media-rich online community, including blogs, forums, video/audio/image sharing, UGC and professional content, video remixes and mash-ups, mobile participation communities, and more. Consumers, who are as affected by the economic crisis as businesses, are now buying smarter and they are using social media to research. They are examining products and company reputations, seeking trusted opinions from family and friends, and contributing their own perspectives to the mix, therefore bypassing traditional sources of brand information.
To remain relevant, marketers need to harness the power of social media networks to enhance and extend their existing marketing campaigns. Brand-sponsored or brand-created social media sights create compelling new avenues for brand loyalty and customer interaction. These communities allow the marketer to communicate clearly, regularly, and honestly with consumers, while at the same time improving the brand identity and creating a level of interest and trust.

According to Coremetrics’ Face of the New Marketer Survey, 78 percent of marketing professionals see social media as a way to gain a competitive edge. However, just 7.75 percent of total online marketing spend is devoted to social marketing. ROI for social media is still developing, and while marketers see the value and want to implement these initiatives, budget and resource concerns reign.
As such, the pressure of developing high-touch, cutting-edge social media campaigns falls on agencies, who must deliver on a budget. Campaigns like these require talent and technology to execute, and in the past agencies were able to meet demands by staffing up in-house tech talent when needed. An interactive social media campaign featuring video remixing and editing would often involve the lead to the agency taking the reins for the customer and providing creative oversight and UI development.

However, developing an initiative like this requires an expertise in the software, a design team, and technology providers for specific site elements. In today’s economy, it simply isn’t feasible to hire incremental staff to support such initiatives. So while the relatively new strategy of social media marketing is largely embraced by consumers, it requires staff expertise that is at a premium today. Most agencies are not internally equipped to launch such initiatives without heavy investments in additional personnel and technology infrastructure.

Enter a new business model: a team approach, where agencies and design shops work in tandem with technology providers to get to market faster and more cost-effectively with less business risk for either party. Software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers offer a unique value proposition to agencies; they own the business risks of developing and maintaining stable software. Agencies are then free to focus on what they do best — building and communicating their client’s brand value — while someone else worries about managing the risk and technical complexity of managing the underlying platform. Successful social media marketing requires an experienced partner with a proven platform. This is a far more efficient and cost-effective approach than trying to build a social media environment from scratch.

To ensure a social media partnership between an agency and technology provider, keep in mind these best practices:

• Co-selling, or at least co-planning, should occur at an early stage in the process.This way, the customer, agency and vendor expectations are effectively set and achieved. To begin with, the agency and social media platform provider should meet and fully demo product capability, creative sensibility, and past work so that both sides are familiar enough to give a good top-level overview. Bringing the technology partner into the first client meeting following the pitch assures that the project is set up appropriately from the beginning.

• Clearly delineate each party’s strengths and limitations.

Tomorrow, Value 2.0

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